Few years ago Ramdev was known to be the person curing diseases, some severe and life threatening, through Yoga. People flocked to Haridwar, his abode. At that time news kept on coming that by practicing yoga people with even cancer got themselves cured. His popularity increased. Mesmerized by his charisma, some people went and learnt the techniques from him and opened Patanjali Yoga centers in local neighborhoods through out the country. Don’t we remember the early morning loud laughter practiced by his followers? Kapal Bhati became a household term. Doctors got nervous as people practicing yoga apparently fell sick less. Ramdev started traveling around the country and other international locations to organize Yoga Shibirs and his Aastha channel kept on broadcasting it every morning. My parents also got on board thanks to one of their friends.
Next arrived the costly medicines. Those unable or unwilling to practice his preached yogic postures were to take the medicines to get same or equivalent benefits. The neighborhood Yoga centers doubled as distribution centers for these Ayurvedic medicines. They also started looking for franchisees. Some unemployed youth got into the game. A rumor (?) was raised that Ramdev’s medicines contain human bone powders, but it quickly subsided. Then one by one appeared his other FMCG and food products into the market with substantially high MRPs for that category.
I always considered Ramdev as a shrewd businessman. I even wrote an article on his business strategy for the Product Marketing paper in my MBA class. His market entry strategy was fascinating and unique. He started with Yoga, created a huge follower base and admirers and then gradually started pushing his products into the market. He continued increasing the product breadth and depth. From the premium prices of his products, it can easily be inferred that he or his trusts made good margin.
Initially Ramdev was making indirect attacks on the soft drink companies by comparing their products with acids used for cleaning basins (and thus making the ground work for his substitute drinks). He then talked about floating a political party of his own – a party which will be devoid of corruption and fraud. And now he has organized indefinite fast in New Delhi to pressurize the Congress Government to act against corruption and bring back black money from the foreign countries. The events that followed – Government’s initial attempt to sort things out with him, and then forcefully driving him and his followers out of Delhi, Ramdev’s fleeing the venue in woman’s outfit, political color the incident took, Ramdev’s vow to form armed cadres (shaastra and shastra), and his latest hospitalization – are excessively covered in the media.
We may not know the whole truth behind Ramdev and his empire – we chew what the media feed us. Yet Ramdev certainly is an interesting case study. When I point out Ramdev’s businesses to his staunch supporters, they retort that what a person who wear simple attire and have a square meal a day would do with money! Agreed. But it may not be the money, but the power. Ramdev’s show of strength at the Ramlila ground and his talk of forming a political party are indicative of that. Power is not bad unless you don’t know how to handle it. Let’s see Ramdev’s next moves.